I of the Dragon

Review

posted 12/14/2004 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
The I of the Dragon has many of the elements that just strike a certain chord with me—a rather unusual premise that, well, allows me to fly around and blow stuff up as a dragon. Even when the game got a little on the repetitive side, I still was able to take a step back and tell myself, “Hey, I’m a dragon. Cool.” And then I was back to enjoying things quite a bit. That being said, I’m sure that gamers without my optimistic bias for this sort of title will have a much more difficult time overlooking the game’s faults, since there are quite a few.

Players take control of the last of the known dragons, left behind to protect humans from a scourge of monsters. Things have been going quite badly, and the humans are left holding out in a single tiny town. It’s up to the dragon to push back the tide of monsters and defeat an evil demon-king. Or something. The story is really rather weak, and the cutscenes that bring them all together are generally poor. Once the initial story is kicked off, it’s time to kill monsters. Lots and lots of monsters.

The world map is divided into several regions, all of which begin the game crawling with baddies. Most of the missions are variations on the same theme—clear the area of all monsters. Each region is riddled with “lairs”, which are simply monster generating buildings. Every so often, new lairs will appear on the map unless a human town is constructed in the region. Thankfully, the dragon is quite capable of magically building these human towns, which is accomplished by a simple keystroke. Once a town is built, it’s up to the dragon to defend it while clearing out the region of all monsters and layers. Towns have some ability to defend themselves, especially when built up to larger sizes. Once an area is monster-free, it’s off to the next region to repeat the process.

There are three different dragons to choose from, following typical action-RPG format. One is a fighter-type red dragon, with some impressive natural fire attacks and lower magical dependence. There’s a quick-but-weak blue dragon, much more reliant on its arsenal of spells than its ice-based attacks. Finally, there’s a necromantic, acid-hurling black dragon, capable of summoning a wide range of units to lend a hand. Each plays a bit differently, allowing for some replayablilty for those who find the game enjoyable enough.

Controlling the dragon is a bit cumbersome. There are a few different control schemes available. I wasn’t able to find a control scheme that I really liked, however, and I often found myself moving back and forth between keyboard-only and mouse-and-keyboard. Defensive flight was the trickiest, especially when trying to avoid homing missiles. Setting up strafing runs was also particularly difficult, since the dragon tends to stop in mid-flight to launch a breath or spell attack. Targeting the enemies (most of which are land-bound) is also a bit tricky, but after a while I got the hang of things well enough. While these controls are a bit clunky, after a few hours I figured out the limitations and learned to work around them. Then the non-dragon missions began, which were almost painful. Where the dragon control was clunky, human and critter control was atrocious during the handful of missions when the dragon isn’t available.
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